Explore the Family Name Maxwell

The meaning of Maxwell

1. Scottish: habitational name from a place in Kelso, near Melrose in Roxburghshire, the name of a salmon pool on the Tweed near Kelso Bridge. The placename is first recorded in 1144 in the form Mackeswell ‘Mack’s spring or stream’ (Old English well(a)). 2. Irish: adopted for Ó Meisceall, see Miskell. This surname is common in Ulster. 3. Jewish: arbitrary adoption of the Scottish name, or Americanized form of one or more similar (like-sounding) Jewish surnames.

Dictionary of American Family Names, 2nd edition, © Oxford University Press, 2022.

How common is the last name Maxwell in the United States?

Based on the Decennial U.S. Census, the popularity of the surname Maxwell has seen a slight decline in terms of its rank. In 2000, it was ranked as the 458th most popular surname, but this dropped to 490th by 2010 - a decrease of approximately 7 percent. However, the total count of individuals bearing the Maxwell surname has actually increased over this time period from 65,779 to 67,961, a growth of roughly 3.3 percent. The proportion per 100,000 people showed a small decrease, going from 24.38 in 2000 to 23.04 in 2010.

Proportion per 100k24.3823.04-5.5%

Race and Ethnicity of people with the last name Maxwell

The Decennial U.S. Census also provides insight into the ethnic identity associated with the surname Maxwell. The dominant ethnicity remains White, although the percentage dropped slightly from 75.79% in 2000 to 73.22% in 2010. The Black ethnic group saw a modest increase, from 19.66% to 20.63%. Hispanic representation also rose significantly by more than 50%, from 1.82% to 2.74%. There was a noteworthy increase in those identifying as Asian/Pacific Islander and those reporting two or more races. The former grew by approximately 42% while the latter increased by around 27%. American Indian and Alaskan Native representation remained relatively stable, growing from 0.59% to 0.64%.

Two or More Races1.7%2.16%27.06%
American Indian and Alaskan Native0.59%0.64%8.47%
Asian/Pacific Islander0.43%0.61%41.86%

Maxwell ancestry composition

23andMe computes an ancestry breakdown for each customer. People may have ancestry from just one population or they may have ancestry from several populations. The most commonly-observed ancestry found in people with the surname Maxwell is British & Irish, which comprises 53.6% of all ancestry found in people with the surname. The next two most common ancestries are French & German (22.4%) and Eastern European (4.1%). Additional ancestries include Scandinavian, Italian, Nigerian, Spanish & Portuguese, and Ashkenazi Jewish.

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British & Irish53.6%
French & German22.4%
Eastern European4.1%

Possible origins of the surname Maxwell

Your DNA provides clues about where your recent ancestors may have lived. Having many distant relatives in the same location suggests that you may all share common ancestry there. Locations with many distant relatives can also be places where people have migrated recently, such as large cities. If a large number of individuals who share your surname have distant relatives in a specific area, it could indicate a connection between your surname and that location, stemming from either recent ancestral ties or migration.

Based on 23andMe data, people with last name Maxwell have recent ancestry locations in United Kingdom and Ireland.

RECENT ANCESTRY LocationPercentage
Greater London, United Kingdom85.20%
Glasgow City, United Kingdom85.10%
Merseyside, United Kingdom84.80%
Greater Manchester, United Kingdom84.80%
West Midlands, United Kingdom84.50%

What Maxwell haplogroups can tell you

Haplogroups are genetic population groups that share a common ancestor on either your paternal or maternal line. These paternal and maternal haplogroups shed light on your genetic ancestry and help tell the story of your family.

The top paternal haplogroup of people with the surname Maxwell is R-CTS241, which is predominantly found among people with European ancestry. Haplogroup R-CTS241 is descended from haplogroup R-M343. Other common haplogroups include R-L21 and R-P311, which are predominantly found among people with European and European ancestry. Other surnames with similar common haplogroups are: Mcnulty, Barlow, Whitney, Massey, Trimble, Prince, Fitzpatrick, Mckenna, Justice, Mcdonnell.

The most common maternal haplogroups of people with Maxwell surname are: T2b, H, H1. These most commonly trace back to individuals of European ancestry.

maxwellPaternal Haplogroup Origins R-M343

Your maternal lineage may be linked to Marie Antoinette

Because it is so dominant in the general European population, haplogroup H also appears quite frequently in the continent's royal houses. Marie Antoinette, an Austrian Hapsburg who married into the French royal family, inherited the haplogroup from her maternal ancestors. So did Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, whose recorded genealogy traces his female line to Bavaria. Scientists also discovered that famed 16th century astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus traced his maternal lineages to haplogroup H.

Maternal Haplo Image

What do people with the surname Maxwell have in common?

Spoiler alert: it's complicated. People with the same last name are usually no more genetically similar than a randomly sampled group of people from the same population. That said, people with the same surname are more likely to have similar ancestries than randomly sampled individuals. The reason is the tendency of people with similar cultural or geographical backgrounds to preferentially mate with one another. That's why people who share a surname may be more likely to share traits and tendencies in common than people within the general population. Check out the percentages below to see the prevalences of tastes, habits, and traits of people with your surname compared with prevalences among 23andMe users.



Chocolate Ice Cream

Prefers chocolate flavored ice cream over other flavors.

"Maxwell" Surname 44.5%

23andMe Users 41.3%




When sounds made by others, like the sound of chewing or yawning, provoke strong emotional reactions in an individual.

"Maxwell" Surname 27.5%

23andMe Users 27.9%



Sugary Drink

Drinks one or more sugary drinks per day.

"Maxwell" Surname 21.8%

23andMe Users 21.1%




A severe headache characterized by intense pain, sensitivity to light and sound, and often accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

"Maxwell" Surname 16.8%

23andMe Users 16.4%

Are health conditions linked to the last name Maxwell?

The short answer is that, if there is an association between surname and health, it's usually more about your ancestry than your name. Individuals with a given surname are no more genetically similar than the general population but often have similar ancestries. The populations of people associated with those shared ancestries often have sets of genetic variations, also known as alleles, in common. Some of those alleles are associated with a greater likelihood of developing certain diseases.

Disease variant frequency by ancestry

Disease allele frequencies in populations associated with the surname Maxwell are shown below. Important Note: not everyone with a disease allele will develop these health condition

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Y402H variant

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of irreversible vision loss among older adults. The disease results in damage to the central part of the retina (the macula), impairing vision needed for reading, driving, or even recognizing faces. The 23andMe Health + Ancestry DNA test includes the two most common variants associated with an increased risk of developing the condition: the Y402H variant in the CFH gene and the A69S variant in the ARMS2 gene. Learn more about Age-Related Macular Degeneration

British & Irish 62.1%

23andMe Users 57.2%